Tuesday, 30 August 2011

JIM'S COLUMN 27.8.2011

Last Saturday the Sky Blues finally picked up their first point of the season against Watford and thus avoided the ignominy of having their worst start since 1919. By all accounts it was a scrappy game but a point is a point and if Andy Thorn can get some more of his injured players fit and perhaps get a striker in, the form should improve.

As I write this the takeover talks are moving slowly with, in my opinion, too much of the action being played out in the media. Many fans are angry that SISU are not packing up their tent and leaving town but, again, in my opinion, that won’t happen quickly, if at all. By some accounts the Gary Hoffman-led group seems to think that SISU will accept an offer of £1 and therefore take a bath for the £40 million plus they have allegedly put in. The majority of the club’s debts are with SISU, a similar situation to when they ‘bought out’ Geoffrey Robinson for a pittance four years ago. Then Robinson was persuaded to fall on his sword and swallow a loss estimated at £20 million, ‘for the good of the club’. Whatever happens any new owners will be carrying out their due diligence to understand the severity of the financial position, and that takes time.

Since Ray Ranson’s departure earlier this year SISU have shown far more interest in the football club, realising that drastic action was required to protect their investment, especially after Ranson’s lack of experience in running a football club was exposed. SISU’s overall strategy is still opaque but cost-cutting and a net outflow of players must have reduced the running costs considerably - although probably without turning the day-to-day losses into a profit. The new board have a thankless task, especially after the lack of signings and the poor start on the pitch, but I think the board and chief executive Paul Clouting are trying hard and neither they nor SISU are ready to throw the towel in for a pound!

There are signs that Man City and Chelsea apart, football’s financial problems are beginning to unravel. To read last week that Everton have serious debt issues is sobering and there will be many other similar stories this season. City fans thinking that Gary Hoffman’s group will be splashing massive amounts of cash on a raft of new players if their offer is accepted are living in cloud-cuckoo land. Gary is a passionate City fan with a wealth of experience in the financial world but that is no guarantee of success. Potential investors have seen too many buyers lose their shirt and are wary of promises of rich pickings, especially outside the Premiership.

I’ll step off my soapbox now and talk about more interesting historical matters.

Saturday’s gate for the Watford game was 13,043 and is the lowest Saturday home gate since the club moved to the Ricoh in 2005. No doubt a good number of City fans were still away on holiday and it still seems crazy to me to start the football season so early. City’s lowest ever crowd (soon to be threatened me thinks) is 12,292 against Doncaster for a early midweek game last season. The Blackpool midweek home game at the end of September could see the first sub-12,000 gate at the Ricoh.

Lowest league gates at the Ricoh 2005-11

1. 12,292 v Doncaster (2010-11)
2. 13,043 v Watford (2011-12)*
3. 13,169 v Derby Co. (2010-11)*
4. 13,481 v Swansea (2010-11)
5. 14,036 v Scunthorpe (2007-08)
6. 14,326 v Sheffield United (2009-10)
7. 14,370 v Hull (2010-11)*
8. 14,412 v Ipswich (2010-11)*
9. 14,432 v Burnley (2010-11)*
10. 14,573 v Barnsley (2010-11)*

* Saturday home games

City fan Andrew Berry remembers seeing a friendly game at Highfield Road between City and the Japan national eleven. He couldn’t remember the year and asked for more details of the game. City beat Japan 2-0 on 14 August 1978. Their line up was the full first team, warming up for the opening league game the following Saturday: Les Sealey: Keith Osgood, Bobby McDonald, Terry Yorath, Jim Holton, Gary Gillespie, Don Nardiello, Ian Wallace, Mick Ferguson, Barry Powell, Tommy Hutchison. City’s goals came from Yorath and Ferguson and there was a crowd of 5,232.

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